Travel and Booking APIs for Online Travel and Tourism Service Providers
Back in 2017, TripAdvisor and comScore suggested that travelers make 10 to 34 website visits on average to book their trips. While this seems like a lot for booking hotels, for instance, travelers visit only 4.4 unique websites, according to the study by Fuel and Flip.to. People prefer to make their reservations through ‘all-in-one-place’ platforms. They’ve reshaped user experience unifying and eventually simplifying it for average travelers.
One of the reasons is that travel industry players have become a lot more open to sharing data with each other. A good example of this is Uber which in 2014 allowed third parties to incorporate the Request the ride functionality in their applications. Today, your local sightseeing app can let users commute from one landmark to another without switching apps.
The main types of travel APIs and how they work
In tech terminology, the synonym to this growing connectivity is API. Application programming interface allows for connecting data streams and functionalities between different software products. APIs work as control panels for developers to link different software components without dealing with source code. What does this mean for the travel industry? If you run a hotel business, you can let your customers rent a car straight from your website by integrating your room reservation engine with available local car rental providers. This may put a car-rental commission in your pocket or just make your customer’s life easier by eliminating time browsing the web to rent a car.
So, let’s talk about the most important types of APIs used to unify travel industry features and information. Warning, it’s going to be a long read, so you may hop to the sections that seem interesting by navigating the menu to the right, if you’re on a desktop.
For the online travel agency (OTA), all these aspects are worth covering in the application. For local or niche travel services providers, this list may be shorter.
As Valentin Dombrovsky, Chief Alchemist at Travelabs, suggests, “API selection should be preceded by thorough analysis of competitive solutions – both from business and technical standpoints. And the first question you need to answer is: do you need an API for this specific product at all? Sometimes it’s better to start with hypothesis testing and in that case, you could use partner links or white label solutions for new products that you might want to introduce.”
GDS systems provide the widest data coverage, while you can find more task-specific APIs from niche companies
Global distribution system (GDS) APIs from Amadeus, Sabre, and Travelport for comprehensive flight or hotel booking and reservations coverage
Main users: OTAs, Metasearch Engines, TMCs
The main data source and reservation point of contact for online travel agencies are global distribution systems (GDSs). The GDS collects and consolidates travel data from a wide spectrum of service providers and allows agents to reserve airplane seats, rent cars, book hotel rooms, etc. This way travel agencies don’t have to directly connect with hundreds of airlines, hotels, and other end providers. They also provide APIs to integrate reservation support into OTA booking engines to let travelers book online.
GDSs mostly focus on five types of reservations:
- Airplane seats
- Hotel rooms
- Car rentals
- Cruise lines and ferries
Basically, there are three main GDS players on the market: Amadeus, Sabre, and Travelport. According to Sabre, these three cover 99.9 percent of the GDS market share.
GDS market shares differ across regions
As a travel agency or any other travel business, you can use one of the GDS APIs or more to achieve broader coverage. Our client, online travel agency Fareboom, which provides its customers with a low-airfare search, uses multiple GDSs and private airfares from airlines directly. However, if your business model doesn’t revolve around the lowest fares, you may stick with using only GDS, without bothering to engage airlines directly. Amadeus, for example, claims to cover 95 percent of the global scheduled air seating.
NB: It’s interesting to note that a GDS reservation capacity isn’t necessarily equal to that supported in APIs. GDSs can be operated manually by travel agents that make reservations for their clients. APIs, on the other hand, exist to automate booking, excluding any manual efforts from the agent. Sometimes a GDS would provide broader services for manual booking compared to the API-based one. We’ll mention one such limitation in a bit.
Depending on the APIs you are going to use, you may consider their industry coverage
In November 2018, Amadeus launched their new portal Amadeus for developers and decommissioned their old sets of APIs. (It’s better to use the word “sets” because there’s no single API for all data services available.) We asked Amadeus representatives for more detail. While some APIs are still in development, Fran Romero, Head of Open Innovation Programs at Amadeus, sounds optimistic about their new platform: “The Amadeus for Developers program is designed to speed up innovation and to inspire new ideas by empowering those at the forefront of travel, offering a quick and easy access to Amadeus travel APIs, and fostering collaboration across the community of developers. Through the new portal, developers can access Amadeus APIs alongside the tools, resources and support they need to build and launch their applications quickly.”
Currently, Amadeus APIs are shipped in two flavors: Self-service and enterprise.
Self-Service APIs. If you’ve been using the old Travel Innovation Sandbox, know that Self-Service APIs have come to replace them. Sandbox APIs were created for startups experimenting with GDS capabilities and couldn’t be used in production. As Alvaro Navarro, a Developer Advocate at Amadeus, notes, “The Self-Service APIs are designed to be used not only for prototyping, but also for commercial purposes, and the access to Production is fully automated with self-service processes.”
What can you do with them?
- Flight and fare search (including lowest fares, most booked destinations, cheapest dates, and so on)
- Hotel search
This doesn’t sound like much. “For the time being the Self-Service catalog includes some selected APIs for Air and Hotel, but we will be constantly expanding the categories and releasing new APIs.” – promises Alvaro.
The APIs use REST/JSON standards. For testing purposes you can try all available APIs from this set for free with 2,000 – 10,000 monthly requests depending on a particular service. In production, you would have to pay € 0.0025 – € 0.030 ($0.0028 – $0.034) for them.
Enterprise APIs. It’s the main set of Amadeus APIs that covers nine distribution types and additional services:
- Car rentals
- Transfers (airport private or taxi transfers, which is a new feature that we discussed in the July 2017 news and trends report)
- Travel insurance booking
- Customer profiles
Every type contains multiple APIs, some of which are purely informative like finding the lowest fares or searching flexible-schedule fares. Others are made for ticket booking. This allows for greater adaptivity when configuring the set of services for your product. Enterprise APIs come both in REST/JSON and SOAP/XML formats. To check out pricing and get access, you have to contact Amadeus directly. And most likely there will be special requirements to use the services.
Sabre APIs cover pretty much the same set of functions that Amadeus provides. Sabre divides its APIs into eight groups:
- Ground transportation (car rentals and rails)
- Trip management
- Session management
The APIs division at Sabre is also similar to Amadeus’, including such categories as profiles, trip and session management, and utilities. Note that, currently, the system doesn’t provide insurance and airport transfers options. If these are critical to you, better stick with Amadeus.
Travelport unites three GDS systems: Apollo, Worldspan, and Galileo. While the systems have their own brand names, in terms of APIs, they are combined into a single Travelport Universal API. Unlike Amadeus and Sabre, the universal API is a bundle of functions that embrace:
- Three GDSs: Apollo, Worldspan, and Galileo
- Air API connect
- Rail API connect
- Travelport rooms
- Fares and Ancillaries
- Customer profiles
Currently, Travelport doesn’t provide cruise API options for online travel agencies that want to automate sea travel booking for their customers. Cruise is only available for direct manual booking by travel agents. Along with Sabre, Travelport doesn’t include insurance and transfers into their APIs.
Currently, Amadeus provides the largest variety of APIs
The challenge of choosing the best GDS API has been around for years. While there are technical differences that may tip the scales, market coverage also plays an important role. Common practice is to use the most popular GDS for a region as this means slightly better seating options and pricing from carriers. From this point of view, Amadeus would be the best fit for targeting Europe, while Sabre suits travel in North America.
GDSs provide general data for booking and reservations. However, if you need specific solutions like hotel booking or car rentals, it’s worth looking at dedicated products.
Flight schedules and fares: Innovata and OAG for scheduling and ATPCO fares
Main users: OTAs, travel applications providers, TMCs
As we’ve discussed in our video on flight distribution (check it below), besides GDSs, there are three other main payers on the market. Innovata and OAG are global sources of flight scheduling data. And ATPCO is the main provider of fares, as airlines submit them directly to ATPCO, which in turn offers this data to GDSs and OTAs.
Flight distribution in a nutshell (by the way, subscribe to our channel. We’ll be releasing more such explainer videos)
Innovata flight schedules. While you can request just a static SSIM/.csv/XML database, Innovata provides flight schedules via APIs. If you look for IATA codes, seating, and connections, contact Innovata directly for further guidance.
OAG flight schedules and status. OAG is another major player on the flight schedules market. Besides schedules, you can source flight status, airport delays, and weather.
ATPCO fares, baggage, and ancillaries. ATPCO is the main source of fare data on the market. Their services also cover a baggage calculator and ancillaries.
New distribution capability: NDC by GDSs, airlines, and tech providers
Main users: OTAs, travel applications providers, TMCs
Another point we’ve mentioned in the video and discussed in our article about new distribution capability (NDC) is that airlines are looking for ways to sell their seats in a more efficient way than GDSs have been offering. IATA’s NDC standard based on XML allows carriers to offer rich content, a broader set of ancillaries, and customer personalization, the things that were limited in GDS-centered distribution.
Initially, NDC was considered the way to bypass GDSs entirely and build carriers’ own APIs to directly connect to OTAs and TMCs (travel management companies). But things have changed and today there are three main ways to use NDC, including NDC implemented by GDSs.
GDSs NDC. Unsurprisingly global distribution systems aren’t excited about losing their market. While it’s hard to find actual NDC API documentation, you may directly contact Amadeus, Sabre, and Travelport for NDC connection purposes.
Flights Data: Skyscanner APIs, FlightStats API, SITA API, and other traveler flight support, disruption management, and booking
Main users: OTAs, travel applications providers
GDSs send general flight data, but some providers can reach more precise fare returns than GDSs for lower cost. Skyscanner API doesn’t have a subscription or query-driven payments. Instead, Skyscanner suggests its API users enroll in an affiliate program. If you pass their vetting process, you get access to a free set of APIs. Once you reach a certain revenue threshold, the service allows you to negotiate a commission based on your traffic and market proportion. While Skyscanner also provides car rental and hotel APIs, its strong point is its flight fare search. It comes in two main versions:
Browse Flight Prices. This set ships cached prices for an aggregated variety of origin-destination and time-frame queries, meaning that you can set up a flex search using these APIs. The drawback is the cache doesn’t update frequently for less popular route and date combinations. If the prices change, sometimes your users won’t be able to see updated info.
Live Flight Prices. The live pricing API, on the other hand, returns exact fares for any given moment. But you must query the exact time and route to retrieve prices. This feature comes in handy whenever you need to compare prices for specific dates and routes.
Some OTAs and travel application providers strive to help travelers after booking is completed. For instance, the in-flight support app that we developed for Fareboom helps travelers with timely notifications before a departure, tracks flight status, and alerts about delays. To deliver such services, you have to retrieve in-depth details about flights, connections, and weather.
Another popular API for these purposes is by FlightStats, a global flight tracker and travel applications provider. FlightStats APIs combine two main products:
FlightStats Flex APIs. This set of services mainly operates with actual flight data with real-time tracking which includes:
- Flight status and track
- Historical flight status
- Schedules and connections
- Airlines and airports
- Equipment (aircraft IATA codes, name, propulsion, etc.)
- Delay Index
- Ratings (performance ratings to define which flights are more likely to be on-time between given airports)
- FIDS (flight information display systems found in airports)
FlightStats Trip Data APIs. This set focuses on improving the itinerary experience for travelers and travel agents informing them about flight disruptions. These include alerts about flights and legs, especially in cases of connection problems and delays, to enable proactive reactions to these events.
FlightStats APIs are known in the development community as well documented and coherent. They allow for deep customization to tailor travel software to specific business and UX needs.
SITA is one of the major flight market technology providers that offers a decent set of APIs that mostly revolve around airport, baggage, and boarding information:
- Boarding passes
- Beacons (in-airport beacons)
- Flight tracking and info
- Wait time (expected passenger wait times in airport lines)
- Baggage tracking
- NDC APIs (SITA provides NDC systems for some airlines)
Kiwi is a Czech OTA known for its powerful flight search engine that sets connections and stopovers, processes low-cost flights, and connects to about 150 non-GDS carriers. You can use their API to find flight data and make bookings that earn commissions. The set of APIs includes the following data:
- Airlines and their logos
- Aggregated flight results
- Finding the cheapest routes
Travelfusion is a flight and accommodation aggregator that works with low-cost carriers and legacy airlines. The company actively supports IATA NDC initiative and offers XML APIs for travel agents. You can search and book flights using their inventory.
Hotel booking APIs: rooms reservations provided by wholesalers and bedbanks
Main users: OTAs, property owners, channel managers, property management systems
If you’re new to the world of hotel room distribution, spend five minutes to understand how the ecosystem works before diving deep into the APIs. We’ve made a video for that. If you know the basics, just skip our explainer.
How hospitality booking works (if you haven’t subscribed after the first video, now’s a great time to do it)
So, if you want to source rooms for your OTA, your main two options would be to go to wholesalers/bedbanks or to connect with channel managers. You still can use GDSs, but some experts believe that there are alternatives that shouldn’t be missed. Robert Meza, Global Head of Partnerships in travel at The Entertainer, believes that the search for hotel booking APIs shouldn’t stop at the GDS level: “To say that GDSs have the most to offer does not mean they have the best technology, supply, or availability. Many GDSs struggle with multi supply (of hotels for example) – taking into account all the caching, mapping, matching, deduping, etc.” Meza suggests focusing on bedbanks and wholesalers to source accommodation options.
So, in this section, we’ll focus on wholesalers and bedbanks.
Hotelbeds Group APIs
Hotelbeds is one of the largest accommodation, transfers, and activities distributors. Its APIs cover more than 120 markets globally operating in about 185 countries. There are three main hotel-related APIs that Hotelbeds suggests, connecting to about 75,000 hotels worldwide.
Hotel Content API. This API returns both static and dynamic information. Static info includes hotel descriptions, pictures, addresses, etc. The dynamic part retrieves data that can be changed at any moment: availability details, prices, fees, etc.
Hotel Booking API. The API complements the previous one enabling all aspects of the booking procedure, from requesting room availability to receiving booking lists and making cancellations.
Cache API. This API is aimed at providing massive amounts of data for travel packages or flex room searches. Thus, the API returns a specific snapshot of data captured at a given moment.
JacTravel is another large hotel booking distributor that provides access to rooms in 92 countries and partners with about 18,000 hotel and travel providers. While they don’t have openly available API documentation to evaluate, the general offering entails:
- 50,000 room availability
- Both live and cached data retrieval
- Hotel info returns with photos and descriptions in four languages (English, German, Spanish, and French)
- High speed API response
Bonotel is a niche wholesale distributor that is solely targeted at luxury and boutique hotel rooms. Currently, Bonotel accesses more than 2,800 hotels globally that operate within the luxury segment. To explore the API that Bonotel suggests, you should contact the supplier directly.
Destinations of the World API
DOTW is a wholesale provider that aggregates room availability in about 160,000 hotels and apartments and covers more than 10,000 destinations globally. While DOTW operates in all major destinations, it’s major focus is considered to be Asia. So, if you plan to emphasize such countries as the United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore, this supplier should be the first to explore. What kinds of features does the API make available?
- Hotel info (location and description)
- Booking info exchange (dates of stay, tourists, number of rooms)
- Pricing info
- Booking requests and booking cancellations
- Sending order comments
- Printing vouchers
Hotel rooms from connectivity and channel managers: APIs and services from Dhisco, DerbySoft, and SiteConnect
Main users: OTAs, metasearch engines, travel application providers, property owners
Connectivity providers and channel managers are technical B2B players that connect property owners like hotels and hotel chains with booking services like OTAs and metasearch engines. Their niche strength is in making these connections smooth and avoiding overbooking if a hotel chain distributes via multiple OTAs. Additionally, property management systems and OTA APIs may have different standards applied. Thus, establishing direct connections for data exchange may be a hurdle. For example, if you want your hotel to be visible in multiple OTA listings and to make your property data displayed on these OTAs correctly, you must comply with each individual API requirement. And as the number of platforms you want to be presented on grows, so does the amount of engineering effort spent on integration. Have a look at our article about channel managers. It furnishes many interesting details.
Instead of manually making all connections work, you can apply to these mediator services. OTAs, on the other hand, also benefit from this partnership as they grow room supply availability. We’ve picked three such providers to check. The first two don’t have openly available API documentation, which can be obtained upon a direct request.
Dhisco: connectivity solutions
Dhisco is a global connectivity provider that enables one-to-many distribution of hotel rooms connecting main OTAs, travel agencies, metasearch engines, and GDSs with hotel chains. Currently, the service has access to over 100,000 properties. What does Dhisco have to offer?
- Switch service: They have XML APIs for hotel search and booking.
- Shop service: This returns data on hotel rooms with such specific details as hotel policy details, room types, and child-specific rates
- Cache service: Cache is an additional service to reduce response time for transactions by moving popular transactions to the cache. The company claims to provide timely updates to the cached rooms.
- Content service: The package aims at better content distribution by providing actual room information, transforming industry terms into plain language, and facilitating multilanguage supply.
DerbySoft: connectivity APIs for different types of travel businesses
DerbySoft ships its connectivity solutions in multiple bundles to address the needs of different supplier-distributor models.
- Click: connection services for metasearch engines and hoteliers that want to increase direct bookings without OTA intermediary fees
- Build: a connectivity platform to establish links between the largest OTAs and the largest hotel groups
- Go: a platform like Build, but aimed at much smaller businesses such as midsize suppliers, regional businesses, and startup distributors
SiteConnect API by SiteMinder
SiteMinder is one of the largest channel management providers for hotels. It allows hoteliers to connect their properties to the leading OTAs and GDSs via the cloud interface, increase direct bookings, and analyze performance.
While their packages can be extremely useful for hotels that strive for market visibility, SiteMinder also has SiteConnect API that mostly addresses OTAs and other end-user providers. So, it offers up
- Room retrieval (available rooms and rates)
- Inventory (rooms and dates)
We also have a deep exploration of specific cases of channel management. Have a look at it for more detail.
Hotel rooms reservations: APIs by OTAs
Main users: small OTAs, non-hospitality travel providers, channel managers, property management systems, individuals
The final option is to become an affiliate partner of some big OTA and use their inventory. It works for really small businesses or organizations that want to distribute rooms, while their core service is something else (like airlines). The affiliate option also works for travel bloggers. You tell about your perfect trip to Iceland and integrate a Booking.com widget putting forward the booking of that lovely cottage next to a volcano. Nice!
There are two main players dictating the rules of the OTAs market: Booking Holdings (Booking.com, Kayak, Momondo, etc.) and Expedia (Expedia.com, Hotel.com, Trivago, etc.) If you mostly look at hotel booking, it’s worth working with these two players. Not all APIs are publicly available and you’ll have to become their partner to fully leverage their capacities.
These two giants both have their partnership networks. Expedia Partner Central is aimed at hotels and Expedia Partner Solutions at online travel agencies and other travel software providers. Booking.com supports APIs for smaller travel agencies and channel managers.
Expedia Partner Central
Expedia Connectivity APIs are built with the idea of streamlining property updates both for hotels and ultimately Expedia end users.
Booking availability, retrieval, and notification. This set of APIs helps hotels automate booking by instantly updating property availability and sending notifications as soon as someone reserves a room through the Expedia network.
Product management. This set of APIs allows hotels to instantly send any edits and updates about room types and their configurations, onboard new properties, or add images.
Hotwire connection. Hotwire is an OTA that belongs to Expedia. So, connectivity APIs additionally cover this provider and allow hoteliers to update inventory, set rates, and display availability.
Expedia Partner Solutions API or EPS (former Affiliate Network or EAN)
The Partner Solutions API named EPS Rapid provides access for online travel agencies that want to incorporate hotel booking support into their products. The API will allow for:
- Receiving hotel lists
- Retrieving itineraries
- Canceling reservations
- Receiving room images and hotel info
- Defining payment types.
Additionally, there’s an affiliate program at Orbitz, which is a travel metasearch and aggregator belonging to Expedia. Their engine allows for sourcing about 260,000 bookable properties and about 400 airlines.
Booking.com provides two sets of services – for their affiliate partners and for channel managers. Currently, Booking.API for affiliates allows for retrieving and booking hotel rooms from the Booking inventory. You may want to use only accomodation data without booking capabilities, sending visitors to the Booking.com. If you want to process bookings on your side, you must be PCI-compliant.
Booking Connectivity APIs is an entirely different beast. This set of APIs is created for channel managers and property management system providers. You may meet them in the video above. Basically, if you build channel manager soft, this API is a must… given that you want to connect your clients to Booking.com. You may check their documentation. In brief, Connectivity supports:
- Rates and availability
- Problem reporting
Another OTA owned by Booking Holdings is Agoda. It’s also worth contacting the Agoda team separately to understand how their supply differs from what Booking already offers.
Priceline focuses on online travel agencies only or any other travel tech suppliers that help their customer find travel related data. Currently, the Priceline API allows for retrieving and booking:
- Cars for rent
- Vacation packages
As Priceline is own by Booking Holdings, it’s worth considering both.
HomeAway is an alternative travel OTA that connects travelers with home owners in about 190 countries. The service accessed about 2 million homes worldwide. Like Airbnb, HomeAway focuses on single-property owners rather than hotels and chains. And they have a set of APIs that allow OTAs to leverage their home supply and features:
- Search homes
- Get home listings
- Reserve homes and get quotes
- Establish direct chat communication between homeowners and travelers
- Submit traveler property reviews
Interestingly, Airbnb provides an API for property owners only who want to employ Airbnb booking capacities.
Content and Property Mapping APIs: GIATA, Gimmonix, and Leonardo
Main users: OTAs, metasearch engines, travel applications providers, hotels
Scrupulous destination research is what defines the booking experience for many travelers. They want to know how their accommodation will look, what the surroundings are, and they may want to compare offers from different tour operators. Content APIs will help address this demand.
Another challenge is proper information mapping, creating a coherent properties database with specific IDs and labels assigned to destinations, hotels, room types, and package types. So, if you’re looking for efficient content and mapping solutions, check these providers.
GIATA API. GIATA connects to about 500 content providers like tour operators and travel agency chains. Their XML interface addresses various content searches, from images and videos to comparing tour operators and their offers. Also, the GIATA interface maps properties on all levels.
Gimmonix Mapping.Works APIs. Mapping.Works is a set of APIs that help both property owners and OTAs map their inventories. The provider employs ML-based text analysis to extract meaning from various inventory descriptions and operates on two levels of mapping: hotel mapping and room mapping.
Leonardo APIs. Leonardo connects media content in over 100,000 properties globally. The company bundles its services both for OTAs and hotels allowing these groups of travel players to better manage media data.
TripAdvisor Content API. The API will retrieve information on accommodations, restaurants, and attractions, including such details as location IDs, property names, addresses, longitude and latitude.
Car Rentals: Rentalcars.com by Booking Holdings and CarTrawler integration to reach the largest car rental pools
Main users: OTAs, travel applications providers, hotels, airlines
As you’ve noticed, multiple players on the market are bundling their services with car rentals. GDS systems and main OTAs already support car rentals.
Rentalcars.com is currently the largest provider in the sphere owned by Booking Holdings. If you look at embedding car rental support only into your website, it’s worth considering their services as Rentalcars works across about 48,000 locations around the world in 163 countries.
Rentalcars offers two main options: 1) put a customizable banner on your website, 2) become Rentalcars Connect partner and then leverage available technology through the API. The first option obviously isn’t an API and eventually, your users will be landing on Rentalcars.com to complete their reservation.
The second option, on the other hand, isn’t limited to a single API. The connect partners can utilize full-blown Rentalcars product integration and services including dynamic widgets, search panels, etc.
CarTrawler is a fully B2B service that connects travel agents, travel retailers (OTAs), and international airlines with local car rental suppliers. Currently, the company operates in 43,500 locations in 190 countries.
Business travel: travel management and planning APIs from Concur to track expenses and integrate itineraries
Main users: applications providers that target business travelers, OTAs
The main player in the business travel market is Concur. The company offers a cloud-based travel management platform that helps businesses manage trips, track travel expenses, book flight seats, hotel rooms, and rent cars.
Concur strives to engage the development community in building and incorporating their applications with Concur business profiles. How does this work? Concur API aims at two main use cases:
Travel and itinerary support for business travelers. As business travelers book hotels and flights through providers’ apps, their travel data synchronizes with a Concur traveler profile. For instance, if a user has a business trip flying United Airlines, he or she may connect a United MileagePlus profile to Concur to make business trip reservations straight from the United Airlines Website. This way, all business trip data is sent directly to Concur.
Expense Management. All payments that business travelers make during their trips are automatically synchronized with a Concur profile to track expenses or pay from a corporate bank account. Uber, for instance, has integrated Concur for these purposes.
Concur integration into the Uber app. Image credit: Uber
All apps that have Concur API integration are featured in the dedicated App Center that Concur clients use.
Tripit is another product by Concur which doesn’t limit its target audience to business travelers only and aims at all types of users. The system consolidates a user’s travel data like hotel, flight, and restaurant confirmations and turns it into a neatly organized itinerary. Travelers can see what’s coming next and what they should do.
Tripit API works pretty much the same as the main Concur API. For instance, it allows for embedding an “Add to Tripit” link on the travel booking confirmation page of your website or adding Tripit travel plans to a website or applications, enabling users to configure itineraries through Tripit without leaving your resource.
Reviews and ratings: TripAdvisor Content API for social proof
Main users: OTAs, hotels, travel applications providers
We’ve covered the best UX practices in booking and reservations websites. One of the main points is that 70 percent of people must look at about 20 reviews before they book travel or accommodation services online. This social proof is hard to achieve with your own reviews system if you are a hotel, for instance, or another property provider. But TripAdvisor is a trusted source containing over 200 million reviews.
TripAdvisor Content API allows businesses to incorporate the main content types that the service collects from its users and update them in real time. TripAdvisor works with accommodations, restaurants, and attractions providing the following types of content through their API:
- Location ID
- Name and address
- Latitude and longitude
- Reading and creating reviews (basically, users will be able to leave reviews through your website or app)
- Ratings and awards (TripAdvisor ranking, subratings, the number of reviews the rating is based on, etc.)
- Categories and subcategories (price level, accommodation category, attraction type, restaurants, and cuisine).
Public transportation: APIs to support the get-around experience
Main users: global and local travel applications providers
Not all travelers rent cars. And with the recent trend of making cities more pedestrian-friendly, especially in Europe, the use of public transport is a big part of the travel experience. As we mentioned, Uber has its own API to incorporate the “request the ride” function into third-party applications. Today the API is used in such familiar products as Google Maps, Transit App, and TripAdvisor. What about public transport APIs? (Check the link for more detail.) There are multiple options to consider.
Embedding Google Maps is quite common today. The Google APIs are open, well-documented, and widely used across industries. However, Google also provides APIs for tracking public transport routes and schedules.
General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS). The API is used both by applications providers and – very important – transit agencies that share public transport data to let users instantly configure their get-around experience. This API sends static only data, which means users can see schedules and routes, but can’t track disruptions.
GTFS Realtime. As the name clearly states, this extension to the main service aims at providing real-time data coming from transit agencies about delays and schedule changes.
While this sounds great, you can’t expect it to work in the lion’s share of locations around the world. So, if you build apps and want to deliver extra value with real-time public transport updates, it’s worth considering local alternatives.
Local APIs from owners and consortiums
You can expect to find decent APIs from companies operating in your target regions. While the quality and standards alignment of these APIs varies, they can provide real-time updates and even additional information like availability of car sharing or bikes near a railway station. Some examples of these are APIs from Dutch Railways and French National Railways, that update in real time about disruptions and engineering work.
Sometimes the APIs are born as a result of a consortium of data owners and reusers. One such example is OpenTripPlanner, the API providing in-depth understanding of city transportation.
Things to do, tours and attractions, packaged travel: APIs from OTAs and channel managers to provide travelers with attractions visibility
Main users: OTAs, local travel providers, travel applications providers
Like hotels, T&A supply is broad. There are OTAs and niche companies that specialize in connecting travel agents with suppliers, suggesting interfaces, APIs, or both options to configure and source tours. On top of that, these services let you configure custom travel packages that include T&A, accommodation, and even car rentals. To get more information on tours and attractions APIs, check out our comprehensive article on the topic.
There are two main sources for finding attractions and things to do for your customers. These are 1) local services like London Theatre API and 2) larger vendors that aggregate and share data combined with ticket purchasing support.
Bokun API. Bokun is a tourism reseller platform that partly operates as a marketplace where local travel providers and property owners connect with OTAs and agents. In addition, the service provides channel management services. And their API allows travel agencies to request:
- car rentals
- shopping cart
This set of features enables configuring custom travel packages via the API interface.
Trekksoft API. Trekksoft focuses solely on tours and activities. The company provides graphical interfaces for local T&A providers and tourism offices. And their API can be configured to supply resellers with all available T&A, including booking capacities.
Rezdy API. Rezdy is another T&A service for channel management that connects suppliers with travel agents and travel agencies. The API is also divided into two categories: supplier or OTA. Currently, the API can also be used for bundling packages as it provides access to:
- Car rentals
- Shuttle buses
Rezgo API. While Rezgo may look like a common T&A channel management solution, it provides an open source front-end booking engine and an open source parser. However, to use that API you must have a paid Rezgo account. The API is dedicated to building T&A booking solutions that don’t exceed 4000 requests per hour.
Ticketmaster APIs. Ticketmaster is the largest events booking provider on the market. It covers concerts, festivals, plays, and sports events across the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Ireland, other European countries, and more. The service claims to reach about 230, 000 events worldwide. Back in 2016, it released multiple APIs to let third parties embed the Ticketmaster events search and booking support into their products. There are two main ways you can work with Ticketmaster APIs:
- Use Discovery API and Commerce API only. This is aimed solely at an information search. You will be able to source events, filter them by location, type, and retrieve images.
- Use Partner API on top of the Discovery and Commerce ones. This one allows your customers to directly book from your resource, but you’ll have to enroll in the Ticketmaster affiliate program.
Ingresso TicketSwitch API. The product has rich coverage for events, seating availability, and supports ticket purchasing and reservations. Ingresso sources ticket data and sends reservations directly through venue ticketing systems, which ensures real-time updates. The API is used by Amazon Tickets.
Viator APIs. Viator is a tours and activities (T&A) agency acquired by TripAdvisor in 2014. The OTA accesses about 60 thousand activities and tours around the world, including unconventional ones (e.g. “real Prague, a 3-hour tour to see the reverse side of the city”). The APIs are shipped in two versions: merchant solutions that allow for selling tours directly and an affiliate program where the end merchant is Viator.
Getyourguide. This is another T&A OTA that accesses about 32 thousand activities in more than 7 thousand destinations. Getyourguide’s power side links specific attractions and activities with locally related ones. For instance, Manhattan cruises will be linked with Empire State Building visits. If you’re a local travel provider, the service requires you to have live-streaming T&A availability.
Klook. Klook is a T&A provider that mostly focuses on Asian tours with destinations ranging from China and Shanghai to Japan and Singapore. The company suggests OTAs enroll in an affiliate program and get access to the T&A database via either a graphical interface or an API.
Musement Transactional API. Musement is a wide-range T&A platform that combines attractions, tours, nightlife activities, local food and wine places, sports+, and music events. The API service provides access to more than 5 thousand deals in 300 cities in 60 countries around the world. The API allows you to embed transactions support in your applications.
Tiqets API. Tiqets is an agency that focuses on digital distribution of museum and attraction tickets. The API allows for retrieving tickets in specified locations and searching the nearest tickets.
Ceetiz. Ceetiz is a T&A provider that aims at both B2C and B2B markets. Currently, the service mostly focuses mostly on partnerships between various travel providers that work with end travelers and want to enhance their existing services with T&A supply.
OpenTable Affiliate Program. The main option for those who want to add restaurant table booking is to apply for the OpenTable affiliate program. It will allow you to source all OpenTable options, but users will still have to book through OpenTable.com. Once you reach over 100 monthly reservations as an affiliate, you will be able to leverage revenue-sharing opportunities. However, not all applicants are becoming partners. That’s why there’s an unofficial OpenTable API. It supports the same set of data and doesn’t require contacting OpenTable directly.
If the restaurant industry is your primary interest, check out our article on restaurant reservation APIs.
How to Choose the Right Travel API
We’ve covered just the tip of the available travel APIs iceberg to provide you with basic information on integration capabilities that the travel community shares. So, regardless of whether you use one of the products mentioned above or look for something specific, there are general recommendations for choosing a suitable API for your travel business.
- Look at popularity. ProgrammableWeb suggests looking at Google Trends to understand how popular the product is. Popularity isn’t only a proof of quality but also the foundation for a community that builds around a product. The more developers using the API, the more pitfalls your team will be able to resolve through communication with fellow engineers. Another good sign is a dedicated forum letting developers discuss issues there.
- Check API marketplaces. The travel API market is already a large one, and there are dedicated marketplaces emerging. For instance, Yappes, one such platform, provides an interface to search and evaluate some popular APIs that are available. Currently, it has around 60 travel APIs, both public and private. The service is in Beta, but according to Rajagopal Somasundaram, CTO and co-founder at Yappes, the platform has a potential to become “the largest aggregator of the Travel APIs and a platform which provides seamless Discovery and Distribution of Travel related APIs. This will be achieved by providing API Discovery, API Creation & Hosting, API Distribution and Deal Rooms (License/Price/Terms&Conditions Negotiations)”.
- Evaluate documentation. Look for elaborate documentation with FAQs. Some providers don’t showcase the documentation upfront, requiring additional contracts. If the documentation is not public, make sure that you’ll be able to play with a demo. Expedia, for instance, allows you to try its public APIs right in the documentation section.
- Check for standards compliance. Even though an API may provide a great feature list and functionality, ensure that your developers have checked the main REST and SOAP standards compliance.
- Consider customization. How customizable is the API or a set of them? Must you use the entire bundle or you can choose specific data records that you want to retrieve? FlightStats, Sabre, and Amadeus APIs are well recognized for their customization potential.
- Notice limitations. These may be regional, language, or partnership-related limitations. Most owners provide this information asking you to contact their support teams or describe what kinds of limitations are there.
- Consider additional APIs for specific tasks. Don’t settle for conventional API services only. Valentin Dombrovsky from Travelabs recommends “being always on the outlook for opportunities on the market – sometimes 3rd party APIs and solutions can help in solving the problems that you have tried to solve yourself for a long time. For instance, there are companies like Sift Science or Spreedly tacking quite specific needs for fraud prevention and smooth payments. Sometimes you can find solutions for your part of the industry like Mapping.Works for those who work with multiple suppliers of hotel inventory or AirGateway for those who need a solution to work with IATA’s NDC protocol.”
As the world and the travel industry grows increasingly more connected, application programming interfaces and the right approach to working with them define whether you source the right data and eventually deliver enough value to your customers.
Interested in travel APIs? Check our other pieces on the topic: